Television production is a highly competitive career, which will suit you if you're determined, organised and work well under pressure
A television production coordinator is responsible for the administration, organisation and secretarial work involved in producing a television programme. You may work on different kinds of programmes, such as news and current affairs, reality shows, soap operas, dramas and comedies. You will usually be involved at all stages of a project, working alongside everyone from the early stages until completion.
Production coordinators can specialise in one particular area of assistance or be known by other names, such as an assistant.
As a production coordinator, you'll need to:
- type and distribute schedules or call sheets, and attend production meetings
- help to set up the production office with the necessary supplies
- type, edit, copy and distribute scripts
- organise travel arrangements for cast, crew and production executives
- organise accommodation for cast and crew
- assist cast and crew members, sometimes running errands for them
- run errands between the production office and other departments
- deal with accounts and expenses
- sort out enquiries and other paperwork
- set up relevant insurance cover and help with visas for cast and crew
- close accounts with suppliers and deal with surplus stock when the production is finished.
You may also be involved in:
- checking running orders and scripts
- keeping track of timings during a programme
- setting up pre-recorded material in the studio gallery
- preparing schedules, shot lists, logs and other paperwork for post-production.
The work will vary depending on your actual role and the size and type of production company.
- Many television production coordinators are freelance and are paid on a contract basis. Rates depend on the type of production and its budget, with pay at a suggested £22 to £28 hourly rate by the Broadcasting Entertainment Cinematograph and Theatre Union (BECTU).
- With experience, it's possible to earn a salary in the region of £26,000, rising to over £35,000.
- The average salary for production coordinators is given as £30,000 in the Televisual Salary Survey 2016.
Income figures are intended as a guide only.
Working hours tend to be irregular, long and include travel. You'll most likely have to work shifts and weekends, depending on the production, often arriving first and leaving last.
Career breaks are possible, but time away from the industry can often result in missed opportunities.
What to expect
- The work is demanding, unpredictable and largely contract based so it's often difficult to plan ahead, which can impact on your lifestyle.
- Shoots take place in a range of settings including indoors in offices and studios, as well as outdoors on location in all weathers. The work may involve waiting around for long periods of time.
- Jobs with production companies are mainly in London and the South East. Although many BBC and ITV jobs are based in London, there are growing opportunities in the UK's larger cities, especially Manchester following the opening of MediaCityUK at Salford Quays.
- Travel within a working day is common. Outside broadcasts (OBs) and location shoots may involve working away regularly or for fairly long periods of time, either in the UK or abroad.
- Overseas travel is also possible and production coordinators can spend short or long periods of time away from home.
This area of work is open to all graduates. You don't need a specific qualification to be a production coordinator, but the industry is very competitive and a degree in a media-related subject may be helpful.
To succeed in the television industry you need to be tenacious and enthusiastic. The ability to network is important, so that you can build up useful contacts that may lead to work opportunities.
A postgraduate course can help increase your practical skills, although it isn't considered essential. With media qualifications, it's always important to ask about accreditation by industry bodies, as well as opportunities for placements and using equipment.
You'll need to show:
- excellent communication and interpersonal skills
- the ability to work effectively as part of a team and alone
- stamina, persistence, enthusiasm, motivation and a proactive manner
- the ability to remain calm and level-headed under pressure
- initiative, flexibility, adaptability, common sense and problem-solving skills
- sound administrative and organisational skills
- a good level of numeracy and fast, accurate word-processing skills
- the ability to prioritise and cope with last-minute changes (e.g. to scripts).
Media experience is crucial. It's possible to gain experience from your course, university television unit or filmmaking society. Volunteering on a local community film project or your local hospital radio station, entering media competitions, applying for awards and building up a portfolio of work will all help.
Networking and persistence are vital for hearing about opportunities. You may need to contact companies a number of times to ask about work experience or jobs. The timing of your application and their recruitment needs will affect whether you're successful. Getting work experience within a production company or local TV station will give you the skills that employers require but will also allow you to find out about potential internal vacancies.
The BBC offers a limited number of work experience placements, for which competition is fierce. These can be viewed at BBC - Work Experience. Channel 4 also has various work experience programmes - find out more at 4Talent.
Within the UK television industry, the main broadcasters include the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5, and hundreds of cable and satellite broadcasters, such as Sky UK. Although many of the larger broadcasters make TV programmes themselves, they also use independent production companies for some of their shows.
Jobs with production companies are usually found in London and the South East but there are regional bases as well, such as BBC Cymru which has locations throughout Wales.
Hundreds of independent production companies, based mainly in London, mostly recruit freelancers. Many of these 'indies' belong to the Producers Alliance for Cinema and Television (PACT).
Look for job vacancies at:
Most vacancies are not advertised externally, so proactively sending CVs with covering letters, making regular follow-up calls, getting work experience and having contacts in the industry will make all the difference. You can make speculative applications and find contact details through resources such as:
You'll receive most of your training on the job by shadowing experienced television production coordinators and attending training sessions organised by the production company. In some companies, particularly larger ones, training opportunities are almost exclusively internally provided.
A variety of external short courses are available that cover relevant topics, as well as HNDs or postgraduate courses in subjects such as creative media production. You can search for these courses at ScreenSkills - Courses.
A number of training organisations offer additional training for media professionals, including:
- BBC Academy - includes the Production Trainee Scheme and offers courses and online training in broadcasting and new media.
- ScreenSkills - offers funding to subsidise training for creative professionals.
It's likely that you'll start out as a runner or trainee before moving into the role of production coordinator. The television industry is competitive and you'll need to be prepared to work your way up.
There is no structured route for career development and the fact that most production coordinators work freelance makes it even more unpredictable. Your career progression will depend on your networking skills, persistence and motivation, even during times of unemployment.
Success often comes through seizing opportunities, making a positive impression, having good contacts, and being in the right place at the right time. You need to show that you're constantly developing more skills and have picked up a lot of experience along the way.
You can progress to roles such as senior production coordinator or production manager, focusing more on financial management and handling budgets. You may also move into another role within TV such as:
- assistant director
- floor manager
- unit manager
- location manager
- vision mixer.